The perils of the long-haul flight, part 1.

Because of my job at Automattic, I travel a few times a year internationally. It’s not something I’m used to, even though I’ve always known that traveling around the world appeals to me; I only started actually doing it when I joined the company. The most recent adventure took a multi-team group and me to Sepang, Malaysia, an hour or so away from Kuala Lumpur, towards the strait of Malacca. 

With everything going according to plan, the flight from my home base, Santiago de Chile, is 30 hours long with a minimum of 2 stops. On the way there, Iberia took me to Madrid first, and Qatar Airways took me to Doha and Kuala Lumpur. It was a long albeit quiet journey.

Jet lag didn’t have as significant an impact as it has before, even on shorter flights; I think that this might be related to my inability to rest in planes and that I crashed in my room as soon as I could, which led to a full 8 hour night sleep. The week started off great; many productive discussions were had, delicious meals were eaten, fun games were played, and new connections were created.

Problems would only arise on the way back, which in a way, I’m thankful for as it meant that I was able to get the most I could out of meeting my colleagues in person.

The first leg of the trip would see Malaysia Airlines take me from Kuala Lumpur International Airport back to Doha, Qatar, where I had approximately 2 hours to catch the next flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil. This would not be the case; boarding time came and went, and when the scheduled departure time arrived, airline staff let us know that the flight would be delayed due to technical issues and that more information would be available in 30 minutes. 45 minutes later, staff let us know that the flight would be delayed precisely an hour until 3:45 am. This seemed unlikely, as we were close to the new departure time, yet no efforts had been made to board the plane. And unlikely it was, since when the new time came, the flight was again delayed until 4:45 am.

Logic would follow that they would start boarding immediately; the plane was a Boeing 777-300ER, and it usually takes close to an hour to board and depart. This was, much in theme with the current state of events, not what happened. We started boarding at around 4:50 am and departed 45 minutes after that. Misguided hope set in since I was now supposed to land at least 15 minutes before the next flight’s departure; I failed to consider that gates close 20 minutes earlier, meaning that the connection flight was 100% gone.

I landed at 8:00 am on Doha, precisely 20 minutes before the next flight’s departure. I could see the status indicator go from “last call” to “gate closed” while I was headed to the Transfer Desk to determine the next steps. I could see that Qatar had already re-booked my flight to 2:15 am, Monday 23rd, so at this point, I was mainly looking for them to give me a meal and a place to stay while I waited, which they did.

Little did I know that this was just the first half of the adventure and that Brazil would not treat me that much better than Qatar did. I’ll follow up on part 2.


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